Grammar Guide
Verbs
Spanish Preterite Stem Changes

Spanish Preterite Stem Changes

Stem-changing Verbs, Verbs with Spelling Changes, and Irregular Verbs

Quick Answer

Some Spanish preterite verbs undergo changes in the stem when conjugated. Others undergo more drastic spelling changes or are simply considered irregular. In this article, we'll take a look at some common verbs with tricky preterite conjugations, including

  • Stem-changing -ir verbs
  • Verbs with stems ending in a vowel
  • Verbs with j preterite stems
  • Verbs with uv preterite stems
  • Verbs with u preterite stems
  • Verbs with i preterite stems
  • The irregular verbs ser, ir, dar, and ver

Looking for an introduction to the past tense in Spanish? Check out our article on Spanish preterite tense forms.

Stem-changing -ir Verbs

Verbs ending in -ir that undergo stem changes in the present tense also under go stem changes in the preterite. These verbs have a stem change in the second person formal singular (usted), third person singular (él, ella) and third and second person plural (ellos, ellas and ustedes) forms.

These changes fall into two types:

  • e to i, as in the verbs sentir (to feel) and pedir (to ask for)
  • o to u, as in the verb dormir (to sleep)

Check out the conjugations for examples of these verb types below, paying careful attention the él, ella, usted and ellos, ellas, ustedes translations.

Preterite Conjugations of Sentir, Pedir, and Dormir

Subjectsentir (to feel)pedir (to order)dormir (to sleep)
yo
sentí
pedí
dormí
sentiste
pediste
dormiste
él, ella, usted
sintió
pidió
durmió
nosotros
sentimos
pedimos
dormimos
vosotros
sentisteis
pedisteis
dormisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
sintieron
pidieron
durmieron

¡Ojo! (Careful!) Reír and sonreír also have stem changes in the preterite. Check out the conjugations for these verbs below.

Preterite Conjugations of Reír and Sonreír

Subjectreír (to laugh)sonreír (to smile)
yo
reí
sonreí
reíste
sonreíste
él, ella, usted
rio
sonrió
nosotros
reímos
sonreímos
vosotros
reísteis
sonreísteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
rieron
sonrieron

Here are examples of other verbs with the spelling changes described above.

SpanishEnglish
conseguir
to get
despedirse
to say goodbye
divertirse
to have fun
morir
to die
repetir
to repeat
servir
to serve, to function
sugerir
to suggest
vestirse
to get dressed

Verbs with j Preterite Stems

The majority of verbs ending in -ducir, as well as the verbs decir and traer, take a j in the preterite in all forms. In addition, the ellos, ellas, and ustedes forms of these verbs end in -eron instead of -ieron.

Check out the conjugations below for examples of these verb types.

Preterite Conjugations of Conducir and Traducir

Subjectconducir (to lead)traducir (to translate)
yo
conduje
traduje
condujiste
tradujiste
él, ella, usted
condujo
tradujo
nosotros
condujimos
tradujimos
vosotros
condujisteis
tradujisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
condujeron
tradujeron

Preterite Conjugations of Decir and Traer

Subjectdecir (to say)traer (to bring)
yo
dije
traje
dijiste
trajiste
él, ella, usted
dijo
trajo
nosotros
dijimos
trajimos
vosotros
dijisteis
trajisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
dijeron
trajeron

Verbs with Stems Ending in a Vowel

Verbs that have stems ending in a vowel + -er or -ir take a y in the él, ella, usted and ellos, ellas, ustedes forms.

Verbs ending in a silent vowel + -er or -ir (like seguir) do not undergo this change.

Check out the conjugations below for examples of these verb types.

Preterite Conjugations of Caer, Leer, Roer, Oír, and Concluir

Subjectcaer (to fall)leer (to read)roer (to nibble)oír (to hear)concluir (to conclude)
yo
caí
leí
roí
concluí
caíste
leíste
roíste
oíste
concluiste
él, ella, usted
cayó
leyó
royó
oyó
concluyó
nosotros
caímos
leímos
roímos
oímos
concluimos
vosotros
caísteis
leísteis
roísteis
oísteis
concluisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
cayeron
leyeron
royeron
oyeron
concluyeron

Verbs that end in -uir, like concluir, construir, and incluir, do not have accents on their , nosotros or vosotros forms.

Verbs with uv Preterite Stems

Some common irregular verbs follow similar patterns in the preterite. For example, tener, andar, and estar all have preterite stems with uv.

Preterite Conjugations for Andar, Estar, and Tener

Subjectandar (to walk)estar (to be)tener (to have)
yo
anduve
estuve
tuve
anduviste
estuviste
tuviste
él, ella, usted
anduvo
estuvo
tuvo
nosotros
anduvimos
estuvimos
tuvimos
vosotros
anduvisteis
estuvisteis
tuvisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
anduvieron
estuvieron
tuvieron

Verbs with u Preterite Stems

These common irregular verbs swap the first vowel in the infinitive form to make a new preterite stem with u.

Check out the conjugations below for examples of these verb types.

Preterite Conjugations of Caber, Haber, Poder, Poner, and Saber

Subjectcaber (to fit)haber (to have)poder (to be able to)poner (to put)saber (to know)
yo
cupe
hube
pude
puse
supe
cupiste
hubiste
pudiste
pusiste
supiste
él, ella, usted
cupo
hubo
pudo
puso
supo
nosotros
cupimos
hubimos
pudimos
pusimos
supimos
vosotros
cupisteis
hubisteis
pudisteis
pusisteis
supisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
cupieron
hubieron
pudieron
pusieron
supieron
caber (to fit)
yocupe
cupiste
él, ella, ustedcupo
nosotroscupimos
vosotroscupisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedescupieron
haber (to have)
yohube
hubiste
él, ella, ustedhubo
nosotroshubimos
vosotroshubisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedeshubieron
poder (to be able to)
yopude
pudiste
él, ella, ustedpudo
nosotrospudimos
vosotrospudisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedespudieron
poner (to put)
yopuse
pusiste
él, ella, ustedpuso
nosotrospusimos
vosotrospusisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedespusieron
saber (to know)
yosupe
supiste
él, ella, ustedsupo
nosotrossupimos
vosotrossupisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedessupieron

Caber, poner, and saber have extra spelling changes in the preterite:

  • caber: the b changes to a p.
  • poner: the n changes to an s.
  • saber: the b changes to a p.

Verbs with i Preterite Stems

These common irregular verbs swap the first (or, in the case of querer, the second) vowel in the infinitive form to make a new preterite stem with i.

Check out the conjugations below for examples of these verb types.

Preterite Conjugations of Hacer, Querer, and Venir

Subjecthacer (to do)querer (to want)venir (to come)
yo
hice
quise
vine
hiciste
quisiste
viniste
él, ella, usted
hizo
quiso
vino
nosotros
hicimos
quisimos
vinimos
vosotros
hicisteis
quisisteis
vinisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
hicieron
quisieron
vinieron
  • In the él, ella and usted forms of hacer, the c changes to a z.
  • All preterite forms of querer swap the first r for an s.

The Irregular Verbs Ser, Ir, Dar, and Ver

The following irregular preterite forms are ones you've just got to memorize.

Preterite Conjugations of Ser, Ir, Dar, and Ver

Subjectser (to be)ir (to go)dar (to give)ver (to see)
yo
fui
fui
di
vi
fuiste
fuiste
diste
viste
él, ella, usted
fue
fue
dio
vio
nosotros
fuimos
fuimos
dimos
vimos
vosotros
fuisteis
fuisteis
disteis
visteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes
fueron
fueron
dieron
vieron

Looking for more on the preterite? Check out our articles on the preterite vs. the imperfect, verbs with meaning changes in the preterite, and spelling changes in the preterite.

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